Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Wonder Woman T.V. Pilots (1967, 1974, 2011)


First, to clarify: the 1967 and 2011 pilots feel so ass-backward and dated that they feel like they were shot in the mid-fifties and mid-nineties, respectively. The 1974 pilot 'feels' about right for the time period, but what do I know? My perception is after-the-fact, since I didn't quite exist at the time. 

 The original Wonder Woman pilot of 1967 is only 5 minutes long. 'Only' in the same sense that applying forceps to a wisdom tooth and then extracting *only* takes about five minutes, or plunging out a severely backed-up toilet *only* takes about five minutes. In this version, 'Wonder Woman' has a mother who starts berating her over being single, having no dating life, and being a childless spinster at 27. When this nameless mother asks WW what she wants, WW replies, an 'm' 'a' 'n'! The pilot was green-lit in the wake of the Adam West - Batman craze of the sixties, and when William Dozier's familiar narrative voice begins at the 3:15 mark, it's one of the most bizarre scenes (Ha Ha Ha, she's a bespectacled nerd who thinks she's pretty, Ha Ha Ha, she can't fill out her own costume top, Ha Ha Ha!) I've ever seen put to film and labeled comedy.

When the character was re-approached in 1974, it was a 55 minute pilot. The result was a strange sort of de-powered, government-agent re-imagining. It's Wonder Woman removed from DC and filtered through a low-budget James-Bond-craze lens. While watching it, I was struck by how much I didn't hate it. It was cheesy and dated of course, but she was very much in control of herself and the situations that arose, no matter how weird (check out the scene where she convinces a guy with room service to milk a snake in order to save her life). There's a lot of strange, flirty behavior from villains both rebuffed and returned, plentiful Karate butt-kicking of nameless henchmen, a show-down with another Amazon (now turned evil, no explanation given), and a plot that not only revolves around a burro, but gives said burro quite a bit of screen time. Brain, meet question mark.

Unfortunately, at the very end of the movie, just as I was thinking, 'You know what? This is cheesy, but not that bad, and kinda fun!', the movie takes the last minute of running time to completely shit the bed. It depicts Diana, presumably back at some sort of government institution, taking notes and acting as a secretary to Steve. After dictating an agenda, and giving her instructions, he slaps her on the ass, to which she replies 'Yes sir!' and hops to work. Facepalm. It turns out the whole empowered government agent thing is a secret, which makes it feel like I've just watched a daydream she may have had, to mentally escape a soul-crushing job. For the length of her lunch-break, anyway.

Most recently, Wonder Woman was given the David Kelly treatment in 2011. Which means we got David Kelley's unique, and often-repeated version of female characters. We also got David Kelley's awkwardly-written racial caricatures, matched only by Michael Bay. Watch and observe the kind, poor black family looking up to the white savior!  Watch the pictures of a half-dozen Black men shown on screen, with Wonder Woman stating (in regard to the villain), "Her company manufactures a drug that causes muscle to grow at warp speed (?!?). Six teenage athletes, (indicating screen), all from the ghetto by the way, suffered heart failure." They're Black and DID I MENTION THEY'RE POOR? I'll go ahead and do that, because it matters.

Adrianne Palicki sorta fits the role, and does what she can with the script given to her. The fight scenes kinda work, on a television series level. But the story takes jaw-dropping dark turns. See Wonder Woman torture a helpless henchman in a hospital bed, and listen to his screams as she snaps the bones in his arm! See Wonder Woman impale a security guard in the throat and kill him instantly, while he's just doing his henchmen job! See her cuddle a cat at home afterward, while creating a Facebook account and pining for a man in her life! 

Her costume looks like it came from a Halloween store, and I was never quite able to figure out just exactly how her jets flew. They move like a VTOL (vertical take-off and landing), but I couldn't really see any sort of engine on them. They did have an engine sound, though. And for some reason she had a whole ring of identical-looking planes on the roof. One wouldn't be enough? NBC recognized that they had a bomb on their hands, and decided to file it away, rather than light the fuse.

All three pilots are somewhere between eye-rolling bad and amusingly bad. Watch them if you ever find yourself bored.

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